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When a 100-odd people took part in a recent shoot for Stink, an international advertising, film and technology company, only two were full-time staff. “We have a roster of people ranging from film directors to designers who we can call on,” says chief executive James Morris. To keep them keen to work for Stink, “we try to create a working environment that is attractive”.
Creative industry companies have long relied on independent professionals, but how do businesses that are newer to hiring this way maintain a good relationship?
First, make sure you offer work that is interesting, says Ian Gooden, chief executive of HR consultancy Chiumento, which itself uses consultants and experts for projects. “If you only use freelancers for the tasks your staff don’t want to do, they’re unlikely to be loyal.” Liaise with them, create a sense of community and manage the relationships in a similar way to how you deal with your full-time staff.
Reasons for keeping freelancers loyal go well beyond the quality of work. Not only may they be privy to confidential information and in positions of trust, but they tend to have strong networks. Treat them well, and they will act as ambassadors for you as an employer.
Scott Perry, a copywriter, says clients inspire loyalty when they trust the freelancer enough “to take a risk to back the most creative work”. He adds: “That trust inspires you to make absolutely sure that they come out looking good in their own organisation and get the result they were looking for.” Quick payment helps too, he says. “It shows respect.”
Independent workers are always looking ahead to their next job, which may not be with their current client. Organisations can assist by helping temporary workers to network. This might include help such as recommending them to contacts or providing endorsements online. Stink, recognising that freelancers need to plan ahead to the next job, allows them to use its premises to meet other clients to discuss upcoming projects, says Mr Morris.
Familiarity builds loyalty too. Mr Perry says working for the same clients repeatedly and seeing the results provides greater satisfaction.
Freelance work ranges from several jobs on one day such as deliveries, to longer-term engagements such as IT projects. The companies that have come in for most criticism over self-employed workers tend to be those trying to make the relationship work only for them.
Chiumento’s Mr Gooden says that while some types of work are more transactional than others, the same rules generally hold true: “Relationships shouldn’t feel one-sided or exploitative.”